Facemasks haven't stopped people getting Covid since February 2022,  research shows

Going abroad before February 2022 also did not increase your Covid riskBefore Omicron, never wearing a mask was linked to a 30 percent increased riskREAD MORE: Analysis finds Covid face masks made 'little to no difference'

Face masks haven't protected against Covid since at least 2022, according to a new study.

Researchers in the UK re-analyzed data on more than 100,000 people's habits and Covid test results during the pandemic.

They found that masks were linked to about a 30 percent lower risk of infections throughout 2021 - but the protective effect disappeared in February 2022.

That was when the Omicron variant took off and became dominant in the UK, and that summer in the US, which the researchers believe made the virus too infectious for masks to stop people getting infected.

The guidelines revolving around mask continuously changed over the course of the pandemic as federal and local governments struggled to set mandates

Some have criticized masks for hampering children's schooling

Some have criticized masks for hampering children's schooling

Professor Paul Hunter, lead author of the paper and infectious disease specialist at the University of East Anglia, told DailyMail.com the results 'almost certainly' apply to the US.

'There's nothing intrinsically different about the UK that would make this be an issue here and not in the US, or indeed anywhere else,' he said.

The main takeaway from the study is that 'we can't assume things that worked in one part of the pandemic worked throughout,' Dr Hunter said.

'We do need to continue to keep an eye out and critically review things that we believed in the first part of the pandemic, that they always intrinsically remain the same,' he added.

While surveys show most UK adults are done with masks, they became highly politicized in the US.

A poll from 2023 found that 12 percent of Americans were still wearing a mask in public and they are common in hospitals and doctor's practices.

The East Anglia research found that before Omicron BA.2, never wearing a mask was linked to a 30 percent increased risk of catching Covid in adults and a 10 percent risk in children, which contradicts other papers which found no rise.

Co-author Dr Julii Brainard, of UEA’s Norwich Medical School, said the results are 'not totally surprising' because Omicron was more easily spread between people due to its increased ability to infect the cells lining the upper respiratory tract than previous variants.

The majority of people and even healthcare professionals have stopped wearing face masks, apart from a spattering of immunocompromised, elderly or health anxious individuals.

She added: 'To prevent infections we need to have a good view of which factors might be most or least relevant.

'If those factors can change, we need to be alert to that happening.'

The researchers said that the balance of evidence is that face masks do reduce transmission of respiratory infections in community settings and did reduce transmission of Covid-19, but the key questions is by how much.

The researchers analyzed data from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) Covid survey that took place in England and compared infection rates with an ongoing household survey of the population to work out how many people had infections.

Between November 2021 and May 2022, the survey also asked people about their habits to see if they were linked to rates of positive Covid tests.

Researchers found that several risk factors for infections like wearing a mask, a history of foreign travel, household size, whether people were working or retired, and contact with children or over-70s altered significantly over the course of the pandemic.

In November 2021, always wearing face masks at work, school or in enclosed spaces was linked to a reduced risk of being infected in both adults and children, but after the first Omicron wave in the following months it was not.

Before Omicron BA.2, never wearing a mask was linked to a 30 percent increased risk of catching Covid in adults and a 10 percent risk in children.

Dr Anthony Fauci was slammed after he admitted that there is a lack of evidence to suggest mask-wearing helped stop the spread of Covid

Dr Anthony Fauci was slammed after he admitted that there is a lack of evidence to suggest mask-wearing helped stop the spread of Covid

In other research, researchers looked at 78 studies involving more than a million people across the world. Results indicated that surgical masks reduced the risk of catching 'Covid or a flu-like illness' by just five percent - a figure so low it may not be statistically significant

In other research, researchers looked at 78 studies involving more than a million people across the world. Results indicated that surgical masks reduced the risk of catching 'Covid or a flu-like illness' by just five percent - a figure so low it may not be statistically significant

It is possible that behavioral changes caused this change, the researchers said, as less people started wearing face coverings after Covid restrictions were being lifted.

Reviews of pre-pandemic evidence on face masks indicated that mask wearing could reduce the spread of Covid by around 19 percent, but these conclusions were made based on data that was mainly from before Omicron variants emerged.

Children wearing face coverings was associated with an increased risk of testing positive in the pandemic early on, and then associated with much reduced or even no risk later in the pandemic.

Dr Paul Hunter, professor of medicine at the University of East Anglia and lead author of the study, told DailyMail.com that other research in the US has shown that mask mandates in school only appeared to 'delay and not prevent infections.'

Overseas travel was not associated with increased risk early in the pandemic, but later on it was.

The researchers think that because Omicron was more infectious than earlier variants, other interventions were no longer as effective, 'thereby increasing risk of infection in circumstances where previously risk was relatively low.'

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